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The Unreliability of Technology

Written by SRM

6th June 2016

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“Technology is so unreliable” is a phrase you often hear following something going wrong at a critical moment. One of the greatest misconceptions is that our day to day devices are designed to be reliable.  Due to this misconception, organisations are often strategically unprepared when breaches and system failures occur despite considerable investment in sophisticated IT departments. If senior management took the time to understand the foundations of the platforms their businesses are based on, they would understand that it is almost impossible for technology to be completely reliable.

Understanding the history of the Internet will tell you that it was not built with business in mind. It was a solution for researchers who wanted a cheap, fast and easy way to communicate and share data. Like many developers, they worked to solve their own problem, and didn’t think what else might be possible with their achievements. They could never have imagined that ordinary businesses and consumers would rely on it every day. Furthermore they could never have thought that this technology would become critical to the competitiveness of some of the most powerful organisations in the world. We are often so dazed by the benefits the Internet can offer us, that we forget the fact that it was not designed for what we use it for today. It was not built with security or privacy in mind, this being the source of all the threats we face.

Simply put, the Internet is a network of connected computers. If we accept that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then we must accept the fact that the internet can never be completely safe. The internet connects powerful, up to date and secure computers with poorly managed, outdated and unsecure computers. Hackers will deploy attacks through the weakest link. Tyler the intern, who brings his own laptop to work, doesn’t think it’s a big deal to put off that security update for a couple more days. What he doesn’t realise though is that he’s left the door wide open for a hacker to take advantage of – most exploits are designed to take advantage of unpatched computers.

No matter how much time and resource you dedicate to cyber security, your organisations security is only as strong as Tyler’s laptop. However, if you don’t allow home devices on the network and you think this gets you off the hook, think again!

Attackers focus on data flows from one part of a computer to another, thus both hardware and software need to be managed well. The hardware you use to conduct day to day operations isn’t always built for safety or reliability.

A lot of hardware companies aim to build cheap quick and profitable solutions, and once new models are introduced, some companies accept that left over bugs are not worth investing any more time on and move on to their next product. Thus old machinery is a threat to your organisation.

It is no longer a matter of if a breach will occur, but when. Not only is it important to protect yourselves now, but it is also important to protect the ability to protect yourselves.